Books for Writers: 6 books every writer should read this summer

Great writers are great readers. The more you read, the more you allow yourself to dive into a free-flowing headspace to unlock your inner creative genius. If you’re looking for encouraging books for writers, here’s a handpicked list I’ve crafted that has helped me keep the apathetic idling—what some call writer’s block—at bay. That’s if you believe in the whimsical not-so-whimsical force that calls us to write.

Without further ado, here is your summertime to-read list for my fellow writers:

1. Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

[178 pages]

Upstream is a collection of essays that venerates and romanticizes the natural world. Poets and writers alike have been known to take much of their inspiration from nature, dating back to the fathers of romanticism such as Wordsworth, Whitman and Keating in the lake district in northern England.

These essays are no exception. I think it‘s a great book for creators to read because Oliver describes the creative writing process with a beautiful poetic prose.

“But first and foremost I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple—or a green field— a place to enter, and in which to feel. Only in a secondary way is it an intellectual thing—an artifact, a moment of seemly and robust wordiness—wonderful as that part of it is.”

Mary Oliver

2. The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield

[168 pages]

If you’re a writer or creator of any kind, you need to read this book. It discusses the difference between an amateur and a professional. The amateur wait for their muse to inspire them, the professional sits down every morning at 9am sharp because they known their inspiration will come.

3. The Practice: Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin

[272 pages]

Godin shares pieces of advice broken down one by one to help creators stop procrastinating and start believing in ourselves. It’s about overcoming the fear inside and shipping your work. Being your biggest supporter instead of biggest doubter. I might be making it sound cheesy, but Godin’s examples work in his favor and I found it really inspiring.

“Your work is too important to be left to how you feel today.”

Seth Godin

4. The Philosophy of Style by Herbert Spencer

[48 pages]

Spencer describes the rules that capture how to best use language. It’s worth a read if you’re a stylistic aficionado, especially if you’re a poet.

“Thus poetry, regarded as a vehicle of thought, is especially impressive partly because it obeys all the laws of effective speech, and partly because in so doing it imitates the natural utterances of excitement.”

Herbert Spencer

5. Writers and Lovers by Lily King

[320 pages]

Writers and Lovers describes the process of trying to finish a manuscript. The protagonist struggles to find inspiration to continue or finish scenes while dealing with her stressful waitressing job and navigating the beginning and ending of relationships.

She attends a writer’s retreat, weekly book releases at her local book club, and has lots of fellow writers as friends. To me it felt like a very realistic description of what its like to write a manuscript.

“I don’t write because I think I have something to say. I write because if I don’t, everything feels even worse.

“It’s a particular kind of pleasure, of intimacy, loving book with someone.”

Lily King

6. The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft

[420 pages]

Lovecraft is an icon in the horror genre. He was the first writer to explore supernatural literature and the innate fear of the human psyche. I, myself am not a horror fan, but I read this to pay homage to a writer known for his creativity and influence on the genre to come.

It wasn’t as grotesque as I was expecting, and for someone with a low tolerance for gory scenes I was happy to find that most of the horror described is fear of the unknown. I think it’s worth a read to expand your reading palette and maybe you’ll find some inspiration to bring to your own work.

“Only poetry or madness could do justice to the noises heard by Legrasse‘s men as they ploughed on through the black morass toward the red glare and muffled tom-toms.”

H.P. Lovecraft

I’d like to know if you’ve read any of these books and I’d be happy to hear what you thought of them. Also, if you have have other recommendations for writers drop them in the comments below 🙂 Happy reading!

Click here for more by E.L. Jayne

10 thoughts on “Books for Writers: 6 books every writer should read this summer

  1. I am a fan of Seth Godwin. I used his book “ Purple cow” as inspirational book when coaching young students at the end of their secondary studies. I have not read “ The Practice: Shipping Creative Work” and I’ll go for it. Thank you for the suggestions!

    1. Thanks for the rec for Purple Cow, I’m adding it to be to-be-read list, and maybe can make a follow-up to this article. I hope you enjoy The Practice by him!

  2. Hey Jane. Thank you for those. I think I would go for Writers and lovers. To me,it is a reality we all face in life trying to be this and trying to be that. But in all,focusing on what truly matter is the way to go.

  3. Thanks for some needed inspiration 😀 I definitely am adding a couple of these to my list, DEFINITELY including H. P. Lovecraft’s book. Hehe. I actually LOVE the horror genre. I just took a class on literature of mystery and suspense and we studied a bit of Lovecraft and even I was surprised to realize the huge influence he had on the genre; thematic elements that I recognized from my own experience watching movies and reading horror that I never realized were his doing. I love when you find a source of genius that was the starting point for something you really like. I like writing horror stories, too, but I definitely fall in the amateur category — partly because my horror stories are usually based on horrible nightmares I have sporadically lol But I intend to focus more on my writing now.

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